About 52,000 employees remain unvaccinated against Covid-19 in Singapore

As of Dec 19, 80 per cent of firms have attained full vaccine coverage for their workforce. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Around 52,000 employees in Singapore have not taken any Covid-19 vaccine, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said on Monday (Dec 27).

Around 6,700 are aged 60 and above, and are at a very high risk of severe illness or death from Covid-19 infection, it added.

It noted that only a small proportion of these workers are medically ineligible for vaccination, while 98 per cent of the workforce - excluding self-employed persons - have been inoculated.

As at Dec 19, 80 per cent of firms have attained full vaccine coverage for their workforce.

This is considerable progress, MOM said, as it marks a drop from the 75,000 employees who were not vaccinated as at Dec 5.

These updates come in the wake of the Ministry of Health's announcement on Sunday that unvaccinated employees will not be allowed to return to the workplace from Jan 15 next year.

This rule stands even if they test negative for Covid-19 24 hours beforehand.

Those certified to be medically ineligible or have recovered from Covid-19 within 180 days can return.

Those who are partially inoculated can go to the workplace, but with a negative pre-event testing result up to Jan 31.

After Jan 31, they must be fully vaccinated.

From Jan 1, 50 per cent of employees who can work from home will be allowed to return to the office, MOH said on Dec 14.

Working from home has been the default since September, when Singapore began logging another rise in Covid-19 cases.

MOM said on Monday: "We have seen the emergence of the more transmissible Omicron variant, which with the Delta variant, significantly raises the chance of contracting Covid-19 compared to a year ago.

"Unvaccinated employees, especially those who are older, will put immense strain on our healthcare capacity in the coming months, if they contract Covid-19."

There is a grace period from Jan 1 to Jan 14 when unvaccinated staff can go to the workplace if they have a negative pre-event testing result.

But they must pay for the cost of the test and show the result to their employers when reporting for work.

MOM said: "A fully vaccinated workforce will be able to operate more safely and at much lower risk to employees' lives.

"We must also be prepared to take stronger steps to protect those who, due to medical reasons, cannot receive any vaccine."

For employees who remain unvaccinated, MOM said employers may allow them to work from home if such arrangements can sufficiently meet their operational or business needs.

"However, as the vast majority of vaccinated employees eventually return to the workplace more frequently, the prolonged absence of the unvaccinated employees... may affect their individual performance as well as negatively impact team or organisational performance," MOM said.

From Jan 15, workers who have to be on site but are unvaccinated can be redeployed to suitable roles that can be done from home, it added.

They can also be placed on no-pay leave based on mutually agreed terms.

As a last resort, their employment can be terminated with notice according to their contract.

Such termination is not considered as wrongful dismissal since it is due to the employees' inability to be at the workplace to do their contracted duties.

"By not coming to the workplace, unvaccinated employees are protected from being exposed to the threat of the virus," MOM added.

For those who are medically ineligible for vaccines, it said employers should consider measures to protect them, even though they are allowed to work on-site.

These include allowing them to work from home if they can or redeploying them to suitable roles that can be done remotely.

MOM said: "The tripartite partners urge the remaining 20 per cent of employers to make a concerted push to get their unvaccinated employees to be vaccinated as soon as possible."

It added that firms should support this by granting paid time-off to staff for their vaccination and additional paid sick leave if the worker experiences a related adverse reaction.

"The tripartite partners would also like to urge the remaining 2 per cent of unvaccinated employees to go for vaccination as soon as possible to protect their well-being and avoid any impact to their jobs and livelihoods."

Singapore Manufacturing Federation (SMF) president Douglas Foo said that in some industries like manufacturing, workers are required physically on the shop floor, but SMF’s sense is that most workers are vaccinated. 

“If it is because of medical reasons (that workers are not vaccinated), firms will then have to consider how best to re-train these employees to allow them to work remotely,” he added. 

“On the other hand, if it is not for medical reasons, then employers should speak to the employee, understand the reason and then support and encourage them to go for vaccination as soon as possible.”

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